It has been a few months since I started my senior year, and the studio process is well underway. Questions of queer literary and artistic scholarship are constantly present, and I'm starting to doubt myself in some ways. Part of this lies in defining for myself what "queer art" is, and whether or not I can claim it. Is my identity enough to make it queer art, or does my subject matter have to explicitly state it (and in that turn isn't any subject matter I portray under the influence of my own identity)? John Dugdale and Robert Mapplethorpe are two of the primary artists I am looking at this year, in addition to artists like Duane Michals, Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Paul Cadmus, Charles Demuth, and Julia Margaret Cameron (who to my knowledge isn't queer but she is one of the most important and prolific artists in the history of photography), and the situation of queer men in the 80s and 90s, particularly concerning HIV and AIDS.
Dugdale and Mapplethorpe were both diagnosed with HIV, which later developed into AIDS, like many other queer men in those decades. Their art reflects on that, and Dugdale almost lost his sight due to AIDS-related complications, which would have ended his career. Their struggles are still faced by people today, and while the prevention and treatment methods are better it is still an issue swept under the rug. I don't have HIV or AIDS, so can I use them as my inspiration? Some of the most prevalent queer artists from the 80s and 90s had/have HIV/AIDS so is that something that bars my generation from emulating them and their work? Should this art be left to people with those same infections? After all it is an experience and legacy they have a right to own. Both Dugdale and Mapplethorpe are important figures in queer photography, so they're incredibly important to my process (especially since I'm working in working in cyanotype). Perhaps my duty then as an artist is to preserve their legacy for others, almost like reporting, especially given the lack of attention paid to queer artists in the high art circles. It's showing that my art and that of others in my generation recognize those who came before us and will do our best to ensure that queer art and history is not buried and forgotten. It is a part of the "queer zeitgeist," adding to the community and its story which transcends time and culture.
To See With One's Body and Soul
This blog documents all of my adventures, as well as my development into an artist, writer, and a better person.